Hi Guido! Thanks for catching up with us and giving us some insight into you and your work! Can we get you to start by introducing yourself?
Hi! I'm Guido Ekker and I am a Senior VFX artist and Filmmaker living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Working as Senior Visual Effects Artist for Post Panic (thepanics.com). I am closely involved in pre-production and concept development from the start of the commercial or film, with previs and on-set VFX Supervision. After the shoot bringing everything back to post-production, overseeing shot delegation, sequences and working directly on shots. Depending on the job, this flows over into VFX supervision in post-production.
Besides that; I love to create my own stories! Film-making runs through my veins. This could be VFX related, a documentary or a pure Sci-fi fiction! Whenever there’s some downtime, you will find me creating a new Matte Painting or working on another film idea! So my role is quite diverse!
You clearly have a lot of passion for the Film industry and film in general.
So who are the Panics and what do they do?
We make films of all shapes and sizes. As creators, we engage with visual media in various forms. Our recent re-brand has empowered us to pursue our varying specialties more vigorously. Under the umbrella brand of The Panics we are divided into five sister brands:
With 21-years of experience, we constantly challenge ourselves in order to prove that brave creativity will always have a place in this industry.
The Panics: Commercial content
The Panics Film: Premium original content
House of Panic: Cross-disciplinary collaborations
Post Panic: Specialized in-house design/CG/VFX studio
Panic Room: A curated event for creatives.
We allow our passion for creativity and craftsmanship to drive the quality of our work, always aiming for excellence and an original voice. With 21-years of experience, we constantly challenge ourselves in order to prove that brave creativity will always have a place in this industry.
Wow that's a lot going on in one place!
What drove you to the VFX Industry? Did you always want to pursue this career path?
I guess it started out watching Jurassic Park for the first time. I was in awe as a young kid by that film. Later on, creating my own home-movies with friends but I kind of went away from that during high-school, still not sure why!
After high-school I went on into a game-design study which was great, we learned everything from sketching, texturing, animating and rendering. But during my time there I did an internship as Motion Designer at Discovery Networks. Another change of path but a fun one. I Got to work on promo’s and work closely with film editors. I was the first motion designer in-house and had complete freedom to come up with creative ideas. A great school to learn more about footage related effects. From there on I started looking more at high-end VFX and how to achieve this. So the next logical step for me was the Netherlands Film Academy with their VFX education. That was incredible, learning everything about film and visual effects and on top of that creating each year a short film with all the other directions, like cinematography, screenwriting, production designs etc. It was awesome! During that time I did my internship at The Mill - London and The Panics - Amsterdam. So I took a bit of a detour before focusing on VFX I would say haha, but I'm here now!
Right on, it sounds like you got a lot out of your VFX education.
What's been your biggest challenge to date?
The challenges always change per year for me and every year there is a big one! Last year it was creating my passion project, a documentary about three young boxers. Writing, directing, producing and editing this. On the VFX side it was most likely having to deal with the biggest green-screen shoot we have ever done. 30m x 8m x 12m green-screen that we had built for our 'CarNext' commercial. On top of that we also had a robot as a hero character interacting with a real human. Turned out really well and such a fun new challenge to have done!
Sounds like there's always something challenging but exciting going on!
What's the day to day of a Senior Visual Effects Artist for Post Panic look like?
A day of work! It always depends on the time of a project, it could be full on post, pre-production or even a shoot! But let’s say for the start of a project: I would sit down in the morning with the Director and Producer to talk about the Pitch we do, combined with a Previs. I’ll be responsible for the Previs and communicate directly with the Director, shaping the Previs of the film/commercial together. It’s a creative process where you are free to come up with multiple idea’s. We usually spend a day on this refining, editing and placing music. This then goes together with the extended pitch document to the client. But after the previs it’s also the task for me to create a technical previs, explaining what we all shoot on set. For example, we go as detailed as lens choices to correct distances of actors and sizes of film set, but also what type of plates we shoot for VFX. Doing this creates a very clear understanding for the rest of the crew and further details can be explained in the PPM (pre production meeting).
Another day would be in post, sitting down with the team, discussing the feedback on our VFX. Then continue on a shot based level, either helping out people with setups or continuing on my own shot. But always maintaining an overview as the end of the line compositor, so all of the looks and technical treatments are maintained the same.
Wow, that's pretty intensive but super interesting! I'd love to see it in action.
How many people are in your team?
We ramp up and down a bit based on the project, but at the moment we are about eleven VFX artists.
That's a decent size team.
So what's the best part about your job?
I really enjoy being part of the entire production, from the scratch to the finish. As a VFX on-set supervisor you get to see special places around the world. For example we’ve done shoots on beautiful islands in Greece, a huge shoot in LA and a shoot in a negative 10 degrees snow landscape. Still hard work, but there is time to look around! I like that balance, of being on set and then after the shoot losing yourself in post production.
For example we’ve done shoots on beautiful islands in Greece, a huge shoot in LA and a shoot in a negative 10 degrees snow landscape. Still hard work, but there is time to look around!
It must be so cool to see such amazing places and work in them! On that note...
What's your key advice for newcomers to the industry?
- Be humble and communicative, that's the key for working together within a team.
- Within VFX, always try to see the bigger picture, how much actual detail does the shot need, don't go nuts on something that later down the line is barely visible. Keep the overview!
- Create what you love!
How long did it take you to get to where you wanted to be?
I am working now for about 7 years, within the VFX industry now for five and a half years. If I would count also the studies that I took, that would add about 6 years in total with the game-design and Film Academy, which is a strong foundation of what I do and know these days.
So it's not a quick and easy path, but a worthwhile one then.
What has been your favorite VFX project to date?
That must be our Liberty Global film, which we shot in Paris. It’s a special film for me since we had a lot of creative freedom here. We shot it documentary style, so on-set we had to be very quick with the planning of our VFX. It required even better communication with the director and DP. Working as a team swiftly through the city of Paris and already seeing the shots coming to life was a great experience. Then in post-production we collaborated really well as a team bringing the film to a higher standard. It brought us several awards which was another nice recognition of the work we did!
Congratulations, that's an awesome achievement.
What are you most proud of in your journey?
This might sound cheesy, but my dream as a student was always to work at The Mill and work at Post Panic. So It’s where I am now, but I am continuing to dream!
What is your MUST HAVE piece of equipment?
Chrome and white ball.. haha.
Why is Matte Painting what you want to pursue further? What do you love about it?
Matte painting for me is a discipline which I value a lot in my range of skills. These days Digital Matte Painting is not only about creating backdrops. It’s a much more generalist skill set which includes almost all disciplines from 3D to Comp work. I love it, since you are able to tackle an entire shot or sequence all by yourself.
That's great to hear, it's definitely our favorite part of the VFX pipeline.
What is your process? What does your work flow look like?
I always first start with looking at the developed sketches and mood boards, reading the treatment.
It all depends on what type of shot but lets say for instance the example below:
This shot had to be developed with the reference of space films in mind: a slow-mo shot with an entire ISS station falling down on to the city. I would start my layout or the previsualisation of the shot/sequence. Creating the shot in a rough way, my block out, to communicate this to the director. Once that's all set in stone I usually set up from background to foreground. My previs already contains most of the models like the ISS station and astronauts, but what it did not have was more refined animation, so I take it a step further adding motion to the Astronauts and the bigger amount of debris.
So now we have a decent setup, the biggest chunks are in the shot. My next step is rendering and shading all the geometry according to the shot with an HDR that we took on set. Once the renders are there I start comping. Now the image starts to come together but we still miss a lot of detail. I know this shot has little parallax and I can not rely on a Houdini artist creating very fine simulated debris, so that's where I would dive in with matte painting. I start collecting all kinds of small dust particles debris and place it into the shot together with the bigger debris. Doing this on multiple levels of depth in the scene on separated cards I am able to give it a little extra motion in order to sell it. Going back and forth to comp and dmp, trying to get the shot to a final level. That’s how some of my workflows go!
It's great to get that insight to how you go about creating the scene. Speaking of Digital Matte Painting...
What's the best tool for your DMP work?
Mattepaint.com is what makes my workflow faster. No more searching on the web trying to find the right pictures. For newcomers, it’s great to see how much information there is on the site and community regarding VFX and Matte painting with great, clear tutorials. But apart from that, it's a great start to get to know the community, it’s great to see that the community is so active and involved. Something that you guys should be proud of! (Join our Discord Community)
Thanks! It's great to hear that we can help improve your work and are a valuable tool in your process and I couldn't agree more, our Community is amazing. S
So what's next for you?
On the VFX side we soon will release something longer format! Which is a nice change compared to commercial work. Exciting to see it all come together now!
There will be more upcoming VFX projects but my passion continues where I want to shift focus a little more towards directing commercial and film content. At the moment working on various film ideas! But it’s a long breath so until then, matte paint!
We can't wait to see those Matte Paintings! Thanks so much for sitting down with us today and giving us a bit of insight to who you are and what you do. We really appreciate your time!
Guido is a filmmaker and Senior Visual Effects Artist at Post Panic living in Amsterdam.
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